Writings about Paititi go back at least as far as the era when Spanish conquerors pushed through the jungles of South America. Legend says that the Incans retreated with their valuables to a city in the jungles near where Peru and Bolivia and Brazil currently meet. They called the city Paititi, which means "Home of the Jaguar Father" in the Quechua language.
A 17th century document by a Father Andrea Lopez (rediscovered in a dusty library in Rome in 2001) tells of Paititi:
The King is very powerful, and he has a court as majestic as the court of the Grand Turk. His kingdom is wealthy and full of gold, silver, and many pearls to the point that they use these precious materials to create cooking pots and pans as others would use metal or iron.
Tales of the hidden treasure of Paititi sparked numerous attempts to find the fabled city. In the last 100 years alone, there have been 14 major expeditions consisting of international teams from countries as diverse as France, Japan, Great Britain and Italy.
The expeditions are not without hazards. A group of French and American explorers went into the jungle in 1971 and never returned. Nor did the members of a Norwegian attempt in 1997.
Other expeditions have survived, but it is debatable if the long-sought Paititi has been found. A chronology of the more notable attempts highlight the methods and outcomes of recent expeditions.
Physician Carlos Neuenschwander Landa led 15 expeditions from the late 1950s to the late 1990s. He discovered many notable sites of interest but did not find Paititi. He used technology ranging from primitive boats to helicopters in his quest.
A Finnish/Bolivian team investigated the harsh jungle for two years beginning in 2001. They found some intriguing ruins near Riberalta in Bolivia that contained shards of Incan pottery, but no gold or silver or gemstones.
The discovery of Father Lopez's 17th century document, also in 2001, sparked conspiracy theories implying that the Vatican knows exactly where Paititi is but has kept the location secret.
In December 2007, Peruvian natives discovered the remains of what appeared to be stone walls, although the government proclaimed the area merely consisted of natural limestone.
The National Geographic Society reported in early 2008 that Peru's government news agency stated that intriguing ruins had been found in the Kimbiri district of that country. A local official quickly proclaimed that the 430,000 square foot site should be opened to tourists.
Expeditions will continue. Although there are concerns that outsiders will bring previously unknown diseases to the jungle natives, explorers will undoubtedly continue to trek into the Amazon jungles to find lost Incan treasures. The rediscovery of Machu Picchu in 1911 proves that undiscovered cities are likely to exist in pockets throughout the area.
Paititi has even made inroads into modern pop culture. There are numerous books (fiction and non-fiction) that use Paititi as their subject, and a card game set in the legendary city is distributed by the Austrian Game Museum.
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